Fall Fest transforms Harper’s quad into pumpkin paradise


Students celebrate autumn by posing with pumpkins in Harper’s quad. This year’s Fall Fest is the second in the event’s history, and was organized by the Student Activities Board and Student Engagement. (Photo by Cole Altmayer)

Goebbert’s who? At Harper College last Wednesday, a quick fix of autumnal cheer was within trick-or-treating distance, no admission necessary.

In preparation for an 11 a.m. opening, Student Activities Board president Iman Talat and the rest of student government woke up bright and early to get the quad ready for their second annual Fall Fest event. Tractors, hay bales, corn stalks and pumpkins transformed the courtyard into a cozy rural homestead – complete with the twang of live acoustic guitar and a long line of tables set aside for carving up and painting jack o’lanterns, all free for the taking from among an ample field of pumpkins stretching across the heart of the quad.

“Going to a pumpkin patch is really expensive. We’re all college students, and I think that [the stereotype of] ‘broke college students’ is a pretty big thing,” Talat said. “So having [our own pumpkin patch] is a great thing for students and a great way to draw everyone out. There’s been about a month of this semester already, so it’s a stress reliever.”

Just beginning her second term as president of Student Activities Board this semester, Talat has organized student-run events numbering in the double digits, including the first Fall Fest event held last year and seven Free Movie Nights.

In her eyes, events like these help promote cohesion and familiarity among the student body, and are a great way for students to meet new people and socialize. Talat herself met one of her best friends at the first Fall Fest, and says that the stories she hears from other students about the bonds formed during student events is “just a great motivator for us to get out there.”

Harper College president Dr. Avis Proctor also participated by meeting, greeting and taking questions from the student population, as well as snapping the occasional group photo.

In addition to free pizza, refreshments, squashes and gourds, Fall Fest is also a hub for other campus organizations to promote their own activities and touch base with students. Student and faculty-led organizations alike had tables set up on both sides of one of the quad’s central walkways, forming a miniature fall-themed bazaar with information about the various groups and activities on campus. 

One such student group that was hard not to notice was the Chemistry Club, who had two simultaneous exhibits running – the first was a DIY experiment where students could see the effects of liquid nitrogen on various items, but the second required a warning sign to be put out at the table in advance: “Caution! LOUD BOOM!”

A loud pop followed by a chorus of cheers meant the Chemistry Club used a small internal explosion to create a new jack o’lantern: the force blasting pre-cut chunks on the pumpkin’s surface outward and leaving behind the classic grinning face in its stead. A few explosions even lit a tiny fire amongst the pumpkin guts, giving the newborn jack o’lantern that perfectly sinister Sleepy Hollow-esque glow. 

This Fall Fest was Chemistry Club member and freshman Vicky Coneva’s first experience with a student-led event at Harper – so, she quite literally started with a “bang.”

“It’s surprising to see how something so simple can turn into something so interesting and [get big reactions],” Coneva said. 

Being new to Harper, Coneva remarks that the amount of choice on campus can feel overwhelming at times. However, attending Fall Fest has helped alleviate that feeling.

“This is such a big school, and I feel like there’s a space for everybody,” Coneva said. “So going to this has done a lot to make me feel more included.”

According to Talat, being intimidated by a new community is perfectly natural, especially after the jump from high school to community college – and student-run events like Fall Fest are in a unique position to make that transition as smooth as possible. 

“Coming out of high school, we’re all so comfortable with adults putting on [events like this]. It was always our teachers doing it!” Talat said. “I think it’s a great thing to see people your same age – people who you’d see in your classes sometimes or even when you’re just eating lunch  – being out here [and organizing these events], because it not only motivates them to participate but … creates a bond and more of an understanding between students.”